Daylights Savings Time Change a Minor Issue
By Corilyn Shropshire
Any gadget with a clock could be jumbled and confused
Sunday's arrival of daylight-saving time three weeks earlier than usual has some businesses furiously tinkering with their computer systems to ward off any hiccups -- or worse
"It's crept up on some people," said Don Gardo, a senior consultant at 4C Technologies in Forest Hills.
Moving up daylight-saving time from its 20-year spot on the first Sunday in April, has become a hassle for businesses that weren't paying attention to the change. "It's been a headache mainly because it happened so quickly," Mr. Gardo said.
Not all companies were caught unaware. Southwest Airlines has been gearing-up its computer systems for about six months to ensure customers don't feel any bumps, a company spokeswoman said. The airline isn't anticipating any catastrophes -- no malfunctioning check-in kiosks, jumbled flight schedules or lines of angry travelers due to the change.
The same goes for telecommunications giant Verizon, where hundreds of tech experts have been making changes to time-and-date sensitive computer systems for a half-year at least, said a spokesman of the New York-based telecommunications giant. Even if companies don't meet Sunday's deadline, the chances of a colossal collapse -- such as US Airways' malfunctioning kiosks last week when it tried to meld its computers systems with America West's, or the days-long loss of service experienced last summer as Comcast tried to bring the former local customers of bankrupt Adelphia into their fold -- aren't likely.
Indeed, computers and just about anything with a clock are likely to be jumbled and confused if caught off guard when time springs forward at 2 a.m. Sunday, but it likely won't amount to more than a time-sucking nuisance, said Marshall Brain, the founder of Web search engine Howstuffworks.com.
Mr. Brain was caught in the US Airways/America West quagmire last week as he traveled from Los Angeles back to his home in Raleigh, N.C., but said even that experience was more annoyance than catastrophe.
Daylight-saving time could be a problem this year because the brains behind computer networks and gadgets are trained to automatically spring forward and fall back at the same time each year.
Think of it this way: The loss of an hour may make humans tired and sleepy, but temperamental technology needs a little more hand-holding.
Still, it's a task that's relatively easy to accomplish given enough of a head start.
Computer giant Microsoft Corp., contributed to some businesses' last minute scramble, since it released the daylight-saving time "patch" or fix for Windows-powered computers less than a month ago, said 4C Technologies Mr. Gardo.
Whatever happens, it won't approach the dreaded "Y2K" pandemonium feared as midnight approached on Jan 1, 2000, where if computer preparations failed, everything was expected to come to an end, said David Milman, chief executive officer of Rescuecom, a computer repair firm based in Syracuse, N.Y. "But it certainly could be enough of a nuisance that people need to pay attention to it."
"This is 1/1000th of the scale of Y2K and we saw virtually no consequences to that -- no satellites fell out of the sky or tides reversed," said Ron Mitchell, a spokesman at technology consulting firm Fujitsu Consulting Inc.
Companies still have a few days to tweak and test their gadgets, but if all else fails, Mr. Brain said, humans will be there to make things right -- just as they were to when he was stuck in the Las Vegas airport last week.
"It's a nuisance, not a show stopper," Mr. Brain said.
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